#469, August 27, 2007

A different Weekly Comments

WESTON, West Virginia: Today as I write this, the Attorney General has resigned, Michael Vick confessed, and dozens of Presidential candidates continue to spout off. The Federal Reserve saved the stock market from overly optimistic home buyers and the Yankees are back.

But I’ll leave all that for others to argue and mull over because my Mom passed away peacefully on Thursday, at 88. She led a full life until Alzheimer’s started interfering about ten years ago. Since January she had been in a fine nursing home, incapacitated and unable to talk. In some ways death was a blessing. But it ends a 66-year romance with Dad. (Although I have my doubts that the love between them will ever end.)

Readers who knew Hazel Reeder may see a couple of parallels with the main subject of the following Weekly Article from 1925. Will Rogers is better expressing his feelings than I am. Will’s mother died when he was only 10, and the two sisters he writes about below were ten and sixteen years older than Will, so they often filled the role of mother to him.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

Weekly Article #128 (May 24, 1925) [included in its entirety]


“A few days ago I was asked by one of the big Ministers of New York City to come to a Luncheon and speak to over 300 Ministers and prominent Laymen. He sat in my dressing room for over an hour. I tried to explain to him that I was only a teller of jokes and that I would be all out of tune with the audience he would have. He is the Methodist Minister here who is building that wonderful big Church [Broadway Temple] which will be the tallest building in New York. A Club, a home, a meeting place, a recreation place for everybody that is interested in trying to live a nice clean wholesome life, and wants to be thrown with people interested in the same thing.

Well, I had worked at affairs for every denomination in the World here in New York, because one is just as worthy as the other. Old New York, the so called heartless city, houses some great people in every denomination in the world, and I can’t see any difference in them. I haven’t been able to see where one has the monopoly on the right course to Heaven.

I told him I didn’t know what to talk about. Saying the erection of this wonderful Church, and worthwhile center, was of course understood as everyone knew that it was a wonderful undertaking. But, anyway, I went and never in my life did I face an audience with as little preparation. Well, I floundered around from one subject to another. The Minister in introducing me had said that I had been raised a Methodist, and I had. So when I got off on that I just couldn’t help but speak of a thing which I didn’t want to speak of. I knew what would happen if I did.

Out of a large family of which I am the youngest, I have two sisters living [Maud Lane and Sallie McSpadden]. And I couldn’t speak of any Church without bringing in the work that those two sisters have done, in the little town in which they both live. It’s Chelsea, Oklahoma, which means nothing in your life, but it has meant a lot to people who have lived in association with them.

They started in this little Western Town some 35 years ago. They helped build the Methodist Church, the first church there. They have helped every Church, they have helped every movement that they knew was for the best upbuilding of their community. They have each raised a large family of boys and girls who are today a credit to their community. They have carried on the same as thousand of women have carried on in every small and big town in the World. They don’t think they are doing anything out of the ordinary. They don’t want credit. They do good simply because they don’t know any other thing to do.

The reason I spoke of this personal thing is because I couldn’t help it. My wife was waiting at the train right then for me to see her off to the sickbed of one of these sisters. I didn’t tell this to the Ministers because they are my sisters but because none of them who has given his entire life and time to God could have given any more than they have. They have given their all.

Now when I had finished my little talk to rush to the train to see my wife off, I had something happen that had never happened before and I have spoken at a great many affairs. The entire 300 stood up and offered a silent Prayer for my poor afflicted sister. That was days ago.

Today, as I write this, I am not in the Follies, the carefree Comedian who jokes about everything. I am out in Oklahoma, among my People, my Cherokee people, who don’t expect a laugh for everything I say.

That Silent Prayer that those 300 Ministers uttered didn’t save my sister [Maud]. She has passed away. But she had lived such a life that it was a privilege to pass away. Death didn’t scare her. It was only an episode in her life. If you live right, death is a Joke to you as far as fear is concerned.

And on the day that I am supposed to write a so called Humorous Article I am back home. Back home, at the funeral of my sister. I can’t be funny. I don’t want to be funny. Even Ziegfeld don’t want me to be funny. I told him I wanted to go. He said: “I would hate you if you didn’t.” I told W. C. Fields, the principal comedian of the show. He said: “Go on, I will do something to fill in.” Brandon Tynan, my friend of years said: “Go home where you want to be and where you ought to be.”

After all, there is nothing in the world like home. You can roam all over the World, but after all, it’s what the people at home think of you that really counts. I have just today witnessed a Funeral that for real sorrow and real affection I don’t think will ever be surpassed anywhere. They came in every mode of conveyance, on foot, in Buggies, Horseback, Wagons, Cars, and Trains, and there wasn’t a Soul that come that she hadn’t helped or favored at one time or another.

Now, we are in the South, of the South, and according to Northern standards we don’t rate the Negro any too high. Well, I wish you could have seen the Negroes at her home on the day of the Funeral. Before her death, she said: “They are my folks, they have helped me for years, they are all my friends. When I am gone I don’t want you Children at my Funeral to show any preference.” That’s the real South’s real feelings for its real friends. Death knows no Denomination. Death draws no color line.

Some uninformed Newspapers printed: “Mrs. C. L. Lane, sister of the famous Comedian, Will Rogers.” They were greatly misinformed. It’s the other way around. I am the brother of Mrs. C.L. Lane, “The friend of Humanity.” And I want to tell you that as I saw all these people who were there to pay tribute to her memory, it was the proudest moment of my life that I was her brother. And all the honors that I could ever in my wildest dreams hope to reach, would never equal the honor paid on a little western Prairie hilltop, among her people, to Maud Lane. If they will love me like that at the finish, my life will not have been in vain.”

Note: Mom’s middle name was Maude. And I’m proud to be the son of Mrs. W. Howard Reeder.

#468, August 13, 2007

COLUMBUS: New York City has been saying they’re ready for a big hurricane. Well, last week an ordinary 3-inch rain knocked out the subways and brought the town to a crawl. New York discovered what New Orleans learned two years ag water runs downhill.

In Tulsa, Tiger Woods won another big golf tournament. That Oklahoma heat couldn’t slow him down. In baseball Barry Bonds hit number 756. Finally. It’s time to move on to football and politics.

Here’s one I never expected to see in American politics. The Democratic Presidential candidates held a debate in Spanish. Did I miss something? Are they running for President of Mexico?

Instead of Spanish, wouldn’t it be better for our American candidates to debate in Cherokee, or Sioux or Navajo? Actually they have been invited, at least the Democrats, to a debate next week called “Prez on the Rez.” It’ll be August 23 in California, and you can read about it at http://INDNsList.org. Kayln Free, an Oklahoma Choctaw, is organizing the show and says it’s fine if the candidates speak only English. No need to pretend they know any other language.

Iowa pulled a joke on the Republican Presidential candidates. These candidates spent millions and millions to persuade the whole state to go to Ames on Saturday and vote in the “Iowa 2008 Straw Poll.” Only 14,000 showed up. Normally it’s easy getting 14,000 to Ames if you put on a football or basketball game. But to get ’em to go and listen to political speeches all day, it’s gonna cost you. So the candidates emptied their bank accounts, and here’s what they got for it: Mitt Romney won, followed by Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback.

Just to show you how the candidates got gypped in Iowa, we conducted the “Will Rogers 2008 Straw Poll” in March and it didn’t cost the candidates a dime. Now compare the results: In our little poll the finish for Republicans was Rudy Giuliani first, followed by John McCain and Newt Gingrich. Which of these two polls would you say has the strongest top three? Even if you say it’s a tie, look what a bargain you get with the Rogers three.

Have you noticed that the New Hampshire Legislature gets no respect, no respect at all. They passed a law that no other state can hold a primary until 7 days after theirs. And these other states are totally ignoring the New Hampshire legislature (the same as New Hampshire folks do) and are moving their elections earlier and earlier.

Now I ain’t braggin’ but it sure looks like they are all coming around to my suggestion of a few months ag all 50 states move up their elections and vote on the first Tuesday in November. Folks are in the habit of voting on that day, at least the half that vote.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“…the reason a white man always got lost and an Indian dident was because an Indian always looked back after he passed anything so he got a view of it from both sides. You see the white man just figures that all sides of a thing are the same. That’s like a dumb guy with an argument, he don’t think there can be any other side only his. That’s what you call politicians.

You must never disagree with a man while you are facing him. Go around behind him and look the same way they do when you are facing him. Look over his shoulder and get his viewpoint, then go back and face him and you will have a different idea.” WA #514, Oct. 30, 1932

Historic fact: On August 15, 1935, at Point Barrow, Alaska, a small plane crashed soon after takeoff. Killed instantly were the pilot, Wiley Post, and his passenger, Will Rogers.

#467, August 6, 2007

While Congress rests, Will rolls on

COLUMBUS: Congress left Washington for a month, claiming they need a vacation. The old town needs a break more than they do.

Whether they’re vacationing at home or campaigning for President in another state, you might suggest to ’em, if you’re gonna grab our tax dollars for pork and earmarks, use it to repair and replace bridges instead of building more. Might be surprised how far $27 Billion would go.

That Minnesota bridge collapse was a tragedy for the fifteen or so that died, and a mighty inconvenience for everyone else in the habit of driving across it. But these old bridge engineers know their business. They’re going to lose one once in a while, but can you think of one collapsing on its own accord since the Silver Bridge fell into the Ohio River forty years ago? Very seldom do they fail without an overweight truck trying to cross it, a barge hitting a pier, or a tidal wave washing over it. This I-35 bridge will be built back better than ever.

Driving in this country you have less to fear from a bridge dropping out from under you than you do from hitting a deer or a moose. And if you’re flying you’ve got even less chance of hitting one.

Last week I made a mistake in writing about the Farm Bill: I said the Senate had passed it, but it was only the House. A college professor caught it and kindly let me know. It was an honest mistake; see, when they stumble out of their Chambers after being in session till 4:00 a.m., believe me, they all look pretty much alike.

So if the farm bill don’t have the provisions you were counting on, you’ve got till September to gnaw on your Senator to accommodate you. The farmers get the blame for the farm bill, but most of the money goes to those that are eatin’, not those that are raisin’.

Historic quotes from Will Rogers:

“If we could just send the same bunch of men to Washington for the good of the nation, and not for political reasons, we could have the most perfect government in the world.” WA#78, June 8, 1924

“Congress has promised the country that it will adjourn next Tuesday. Let’s hope we can depend on it. If they do it will be the first promise they have kept this session.” DT #571, May 25, 1928

“Have you been reading about the disgraceful way the Senate has been carrying on lately? You know our old Forefathers that laid out the time that our Congress was to meet knew something: they always held Congress in cool weather. They knew a Senator couldn’t stand up under the heat and his position, too. When hot weather hits him not only his body but his brain perspires and the discharge from both is equally useless.” DT #899, June 13, 1929

“We cuss ’em and we joke about ’em, but they are all good fellows at heart; and if they wasent in Congress, why, they would be doing something else against us that might be worse.” Saturday Evening Post, July 24, 1926